Before we dive into the marvel of the sea turtle hatching season, I’d like to point out that the peak sea turtle hatching season is summer all around the world.
However, it’s crucial to remember that summer months vary from one location to another. Also, in many parts of the world, especially places with warm temperatures throughout the year, like Florida with its miles of beaches, turtles can nest, and eggs might hatch all year round. Did you know that, during the sea turtle season, certain beaches might have a concentration of sea turtle nests, safeguarded by the local wildlife conservation commission?
In this article, we will guide you to some of the best spots globally where you can witness the magic of the hatching season for yourself. These include beaches from all over the world. Surprisingly, you don’t need to travel worldwide to watch baby sea turtles emerge from their eggs. Many beaches, such as those along the gulf coast in the US, offer a great opportunity for this experience.
However, for the safety and survival of these threatened species, whether it’s an endangered species like the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle or other different species of sea turtles, certain protocols should be maintained. These are usually advocated by organizations like the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and reinforced by federal law.
Most Important Sea Turtle Nesting Sites In The World
Note that when you visit these nesting locations, you should always remember to be respectful of nature and follow the guidelines in place.
Table of Contents
|Turtle Watching Experience|
|Frequently Asked Questions|
1. Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, sea turtle season is an attraction for many. With the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Atlantic to the east, there’s a vast expanse for various species, including loggerhead sea turtles. The Tortuguero National Park is a haven where you can spot not just loggerheads, but also hawksbill, green turtles, olive ridley, and leatherbacks.
Costa Rica is one of the best places to watch the sea turtle nesting season. Because of the warm climate, sea turtles nest throughout the entire year although there are peak months.
The best times to watch the hatchlings emerge are September to December for hawksbills and green turtles and May to September for leatherbacks.
Costa Rica has the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Atlantic to the east. As such there are several places to see the nesting and hatching process.
On the Pacific coast, some places to visit are Nancite beach and Ostional beach. The arribada can be witnessed here as well.
On the Atlantic coast, you should visit the Tortuguero specifically the Tortuguero National park.
You can find all types of sea turtles in the Tortuguero National Park. these include loggerheads, hawksbill, green turtles, olive ridley, and leatherbacks.
There’s a great printable guide for the periods here:
2. Ecuador – Galapagos islands
The Galapagos Islands can be found in the Pacific Ocean. These islands are about 900 km or 560 miles west of continental Ecuador.
These islands are home to the giant Galapagos turtles. These aren’t the only animals found here. A sizeable number of green turtles also nest on these islands.
These turtles can be seen nesting all year round. However, the peak nesting season is from December to March. Hatchlings emerge 2 to 3 months after the gravid females lay eggs so expect to see the eggs hatchling from February to June.
The best place in Galapagos to witness the sea turtle hatching season is the Quinta Playa, a beach located on Isabela island.
Other places you can visit to watch hatchlings emerge include Cormorant Point on Floreana Island which is also home to flamingos; Gardner Bay on Española Island which is also home to huge colonies of sea lions; Playa las Bachas located in Santa Cruz; and Puerto Egas located on Santiago.
The best place to watch sea turtles’ hatchlings is Shell Beach. This beach stretches 90 miles / 120 km and is a nesting site for olive ridley, leatherback, hawksbill, and green turtles.
The turtles here are monitored by a nongovernmental conservation program known as the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS). The location is also a protected area (a nature reserve) and protected under the National Protected Areas System (NPAS).
Olive ridley, leatherback, hawksbill, and green turtles nest here from February to July and the hatchlings emerge about 2 to 3 months later.
This location is also home to one of the largest mangrove forests in the Americas.
If you want to visit Shell Beach, you will need to stay in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, and book a multiday tour to go see the turtles.
Some of the best places to watch turtles hatch in Mexico are Cancun and Riviera Maya.
The sea turtles nest from June to November. The sea turtle hatching season is from August to January.
The leatherback, hawksbill, loggerhead, and green turtles all nest in Rivera Maya. Females can be seen on the beaches of Riviera Maya laying eggs during the night. The hatchlings also emerge during the night.
Akumal which is south of Cancun is another excellent place to watch sea turtles hatching. This place is known for Akumal Bay which is home to green turtles and loggerheads.
Here green turtles nest from May to October with the eggs hatching from July to December.
If you ever visit Nicaragua, one of the best places to visit if you wish to see sea turtles hatching is La Flor Wildlife Refuge which is located south of San Juan del Sur.
Here tens of thousands of olive ridley turtles come to nest from July to January with the peak season being from October to November. From September to February you can witness thousands of hatchlings emerging and dashing to the sea.
Other places to watch sea turtles hatch in Nicaragua include Pearl Cays, Estero Padre Ramos Natural Reserve, and the Aserradores Estuary where several hawksbills nest.
Leatherbacks nest in Veracruz located in the Rio Escalante-Chacocente Wildlife Refuge and Salamina.
Olive ridley turtles nest in Chacocente Wildlife Refuge.
6. United States, Mainland
One of the best places to watch sea turtle hatching in the United States is Florida. In Florida, the nesting season is from May to October. Turtles emerge about two to three months after nesting. Another great place to see the turtle’s nest and hatch is along Melbourne Beach.
Florida, especially locations like the southwest Florida beaches, Longboat Key, and Broward County, is a hub for sea turtle activity. The Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium plays an important role in the conservation of these creatures, and their Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program work diligently to protect and research these creatures.
This reserve witnesses about 15,000 to 20,00 nests every year. The turtles that nest here are leatherbacks, green sea turtles, and loggerheads.
Key West is another excellent place to watch the nesting process. The island of key west is just 11 sq km. other places are Vero Beach and Dry Tortugas National Park.
The Texas coast, especially places like Padre Island, is renowned for Kemp’s Ridley nesting. Notably, the Padre Island National Seashore organizes Kemp’s ridley hatchling releases, a sight that draws many visitors.
Georgia, with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, is also significant in this context. The center doesn’t just focus on rehabilitating injured turtles but also emphasizes research programs and conservation efforts.
Places like North Carolina’s beaches, too, offer a spectacle during the turtle hatching season as well as Kiawah Island in South Carolina.
In Barbados nesting occurs every month of the year similar to in Costa Rico.
However, the peak nesting season is from May to October for hawksbills, and for leatherbacks, the nesting season is from February to July. These turtles’ eggs incubate for about 2 to 3 months before the hatchlings emerge.
The hatching season just like the nesting season occurs all year round but peaks from June to December for hawksbills and April to September for leatherbacks.
An excellent place to watch sea turtles is the shore near Mount Standfast. Another place to visit in Barbados to watch turtles is Carlisle Bay.
In Greece, the best time to observe the nesting process is from late May to August. The hatchlings should emerge from late July to October. The species that nest here are the loggerheads.
The beaches to visit are in Koroni, Zakynthos, Messenia, Chania, Rethymno, lakonikos, and kayparissia. The Zakynthos marine park is an important nesting habitat for loggerheads.
Laganas Bay is another place that turtle enthusiasts have to visit. Cameo Island located south of Zakynthos is also an important place to see these gentle animals.
Another popular location to watch sea turtles in Greece is Crete. This island is located in the Mediterranean. One of the places to visit there is the Balos lagoon and beach.
There are several nesting beaches in Turkey. These beaches are in the Mediterranean. If you are ever going to visit turkey, I recommend visiting İztuzu Beach.
This place isn’t called ‘Turtle Beach’ for no reason. The beach is home to a large number of loggerheads. This beach is located in Dalyan.
Every year, hundreds of sea turtles visit the location to nest. Nesting season here is from May to October with the eggs hatchling a month and a half to three months later.
During this period access to the nesting grounds is prohibited from 8 pm to 8 am to protect the eggs and the hatchlings.
There are other beaches across Turkey where these marine chelonians lay their eggs. The only problem is that these locations aren’t visited yearly and the eggs laid here may be just a few dozen to as many as hundreds.
I, personally, recommend doing some research before visiting. This will let you know if there is a presence or absence of nests.
Some of these coasts include the Ekincik Bay, Dalaman, Fethiye, Dalyan, Arsinoe, Kale, Anamur, Alata, and the Akyatan Lagoon.
10. Canary Islands
Although the island of Tenerife is quite close to Africa, it is part of Spain. Tenerife is part of the canary islands. These islands are tourist destination hotspots and attract millions of visitors every year.
The peak nesting season here is from June to August.
One of the places I recommend visiting is Turtle Bay located in El Puertito in Tenerife. Other places in Tenerife that should be high on your list include El Bufadero which is the location of a marvelous dive site and Costa Adeje.
The hatching season in Cyprus starts from late July to late September. As with other beaches, expect the baby turtles to emerge during the night.
The best place to watch the hatching and the dash to the sea in Cyprus is Alagadi Beach, protected by law and has a conservation center – Alagadi conservation center.
Turtles that nest at Alagadi Beach are green turtles.
Alagadi beach is located in northern Cyprus and is famous for its nesting grounds. It’s located in Kyrenia which is on the northern coast.
I recommend visiting the Conservation center. You can book to visit the place online or at Alagadi.
The conservation center releases the hatchlings at night. The beach is closed to the public during the weekdays and if you wish to watch the release of the hatchlings during the weekdays you need to book. In order to book, you need to call ‘+905338725350’ which is the sea turtle hatching hotline.
During the weekends, there is a public release that doesn’t need to be booked. To find out when there will be a public release, you should check their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cyprusturtles/
The conservation center requires that you wear closed shoes when visiting the beach to watch the hatchlings emerging as the area is rocky.
12. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The great barrier reed and heron island are nesting sites for two marine turtles and these are the loggerhead and the green turtle. These turtles lay eggs at these two locations from November to March.
When you go at the right time. You should notice several gravid females coming onto the shores to lay eggs. Expect the females during the night at a high tide.
The baby turtles should emerge from their eggshells starting in January and up to May usually at a high tide. These little ones also emerge during the night. It’s essential that you do not assist the turtle or hinder its movement toward the ocean.
Since turtles normally return to the beach of their nativity, they need to imprint on the environment so they return when the time is up. During the trip to the ocean, the baby turtles also move their flippers, this helps them warm up.
When watching the little ones emerge you have to ensure that you do not disturb or scare them. You should always stay behind the turtles and about 10 meters away from them. Also do not disturb the turtles with lights or flash photography.
Digging up or handling the turtle is prohibited. All visitors and natives alike are to do is watch.
13. Cook Island Aquatic Reserve, Australia
This is a protected reserve and can be found in the southeast of Queensland, a state in Australia. This reserve is a great place to see turtles although nesting is quite uncommon.
Regardless, the turtles that nest here are the green turtles and the loggerheads. These turtles nest from November to March and emerge from January to May.
Activities you can do here include swimming, boating, diving, and snorkeling. Apart from green and loggerhead turtles other animals you can find here include wobbegongs, parrotfish, leopard sharks, pufferfish, and grouper.
While catching hatchlings emerging is uncommon, you can swim with turtles.
14. Shark Bay, Australia
This is another location in Australia that sees large numbers of gravid females on a yearly basis.
In fact, about 70% of all nesting females visit shark bay to deposit their eggs. The places they visit the most include Dorre Island, Shelter Bay near Steep Point, and Turtle Bay on Dirk Hartog Island.
The gravid females arrive from October to march and the eggs hatch from January to May.
Because of the diverse and large number of marine animals that arrive and live at Shark Bay, this place is a World Heritage Site.
The nesting activity here is the subject of research and studies conducted by the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation.
Turtles that nest here include loggerheads and green turtles.
15. Ningaloo Beach, Australia
The sea turtle species that visit the Ningaloo Reef include green, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles. Expect to find these turtles here from December to March with the baby turtles emerging 2 to 3 months later.
There are a few locations where you can see the turtles hatching. These include the Jurabi Turtle Center found on the North Cape. You can also visit Wobiri Beach and Five Mile Beach.
Over 10,000 turtles nest here annually with over a million eggs being laid here.
While you can decide to observe the Ningaloo turtle hatching season by yourself, it is always best to hire a local guide or ranger.
You can visit The Ningaloo Turtle Project for more information.
In Hawaii, the best time to go turtle-watching in December as this is the peak season. Turtles that nest here include leatherback, olive ridley, loggerhead, hawksbill, and green turtles.
Green turtles nest in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument although they don’t nest here yearly.
Hawksbill turtles are known to nest on the Ka`u coastline of Hawaii Island. Although nesting here is limited. Nesting is from May to October and the eggs hatch from July to December.
There are also several nesting sites in Oahu. A popular location here is Laniakea Beach.
Other locations include A-Bay and Kiholo Bay on Hawaii Island, Brennecke’s Beach on Kauai, Keawakapu and Maluaka Beaches on Maui, and Waikiki Beach on Oahu.
17. French Polynesia
When in French Polynesia, you need to visit Atolls Tikehau. Not only is this place beautiful, but it is also home to nesting turtles.
Atolls Tikehau can be found northeast of Tahiti. The atoll’s lagoon is 12 miles wide and 17 miles long. Tikehau is made up of two large islands and several tiny ones.
The biggest community of green turtles in the Maldives can be found in the reefs of Kuredu. The marine center here is helping to protect the wild populations here.
Over 1000 eggs are laid here. These eggs make up 9 nests.
Gaadhoo island in Laamu atoll is another important nesting site in the Maldives. 13 other islands of the Laamu Atoll are considered nesting hot spots.
The chelonians lay about 240 nests here a year although this estimate is an old one. According to inhabitants, up to 10 turtles used to nest here in the past.
Currently, about 142 nests are laid on Gaadhoo yearly with the last estimate being in 2016.
Another place in the Maldives that turtles visit is the Ari Atoll (Alif or Alifu Atoll). You should visit this place from June to August if you wish to see some turtles.
In Bunaken National Park, the best place to see turtles hatching is Siladen. This place is located in North Sulawesi and attacks a lot of visitors.
Here the baby turtles emerge from July to September. In 2022, the first baby turtles emerged in July with more turtles to emerge in September.
The Bunaken National Park is located in Sulawesi. This place is home to several resorts and cottages where visitors can stay.
Five sea turtles can be found within this marine park however the most common sea turtle here is the green turtle and about 90% of turtles are green turtles. You can find hawksbills, Loggerheads, and olive ridleys here as well. The leatherback is much rarer.
The island of Sipadan is home to several turtles. There is also a sea turtle hatchery here.
This hatchery is operated by Sabah Parks. The turtle that nest here are the hawksbill and the green turtles. Since the hatchery here isn’t open to the public you need to write in for a permit before you can visit.
A guide will give you a tour and you may even get to see the hatchlings. The peak nesting season here is from July to October. The turtles emerge about 50 to 70 days after the eggs are laid.
Sipadan is also an amazing play to scuba dive and snorkel. Here you can come across sea turtles.
Another palace to visit is Turtle Island Park located in the Sulu Sea. Here hawksbill and green turtles lay eggs on the beach.
Turtle Island Park is made up of treed islands with the largest one – being Selingan Island. This is the island that is open to the public. The other two islands are Gulisan Island and Bakkungan Kechil.
You can watch turtles nesting and the hatchlings being released into the sea. You will need to register for a guided tour.
If you wish to witness the sea turtle hatchling season in the Philippines then the place to go to is the Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary.
Access to the islands isn’t simple and requires a 36-hour launch ride but it is open to tourists. Also, this is a protected site.
Six islands make up the Turtle Islands and including Great Bakkungaan, Lihiman, Boan, Langaan, Bhagwan, and Tagnak.
The species that nest here are the hawksbill and green sea turtles.
In Egypt, you want to visit Marsa Alam. there are many nesting sites here. Marsa Alam has several hotels, restaurants, and all the conveniences of a big town.
The Marsa Abu Dabbab is a beautiful beach that is home to dugongs, dolphins, and sea turtles. Here you can find green turtles. These nest from April to October with the hatching occurring from June to December.
If you wish to see hawksbill turtles, then you got to check out Hurghada. Here the turtles nest from July to august with the baby turtles emerging from August to December.
When in Zanzibar the place to visit is Nungwi. This large village is one of the larger settlements in Zanzibar. The main beach here is regarded as one of the best beaches in the world to visit.
Other places to visit in Tanzania include Pangani, Mafia Island, and Dar es Salaam.
While the most common chelonian that nests here is the green turtle, you can also find other turtles here. The nesting season here is from February to August and the babies emerge about 50 to 70 days after the nesting.
24. South Africa
Loggerheads and leatherbacks nest on the sandy beaches of KwaZulu-Natal. Here the turtles nest from October to February. Kosi Bay in particular is a great place to visit if you wish to see the turtles come to shore to nest.
Other places you can visit include Mabibi, Manzengwenya, and Cape Vidal.
I recommend taking a turtle tour. These tours start after sundown.
25. Cape Verde
In Cape Verde also known as Cabo Verde, the places to visit are the Sal and Boa Vista islands. Here turtles mostly nest from July to October.
The eggs hatch two to three months after the gravid female deposits them. From August to October, you can witness the hatching process.
Here there are turtle tours you can partake in and there are even hatcheries you can visit.
The turtle you are most likely to see is the loggerhead turtle. You may need to book to visit these places.
- While during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a lot of travel restrictions in place, most of these restrictions have been lifted. Of course, it is important to check beforehand.
- Although travel restrictions have been lifted, the covid-19 virus still exists and people still do get infected. Be sure that your vaccinations are up to date. Also, I recommend you get travel insurance with sufficient coverage.
- Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention site. Make sure you have the right medication, vaccines, and travel advice. If you do have any special prescription drugs make sure to research them. Many of the places on this list are remote places so you need to be prepared especially if you take prescription drugs (that may be hard to find), contact lenses, or allergy pills.
- Make sure you have your passports, and birth certificates for minors who don’t have passports, photo IDs, credit cards, insurance cards, and boarding passes. I recommend keeping these on you at all times.
The Turtle-Watching Experience
Visiting these sites might also give you a chance to participate in a “turtle walk,” an organized observation of adult sea turtles, primarily female turtles, as they come ashore to nest. But, as the end of the day approaches and darkness blankets the beaches, the absence of artificial lighting is vital. Bright outdoor lights, even those from beachfront properties, can hinder a nesting turtle or confuse hatchling turtles. Even the light from a cell phone can be harmful.
Beach visitors should also be aware of beach furniture, plastic bags, and other obstacles that can pose challenges to both mother turtles trying to nest and young turtles trying to reach the sea.
If you’re lucky, you might even witness a “false crawl,” which is when a female turtle emerges but returns to the sea without laying her eggs.
Additionally, many volunteer organizations aid in conserving these creatures. Participating with them offers a hands-on experience, such as sea turtle hatchling release events. Watching baby sea turtle hatchlings make their first journey into the local waters is truly a sight to behold.
Remember, while you’re at these beaches, be mindful of your surroundings. Endangered sea turtles and even those that aren’t labeled as endangered face many threats. It’s up to us to ensure their safe passage during these vulnerable times.
Things to consider
While turtle tours require patience, given the wait for gravid females to appear, the experience mandates quiet observation in minimal light to avoid startling them.
Using flash photography is prohibited, though subtle illumination from behind the turtle is acceptable.
Similarly, when observing emerging hatchlings, it’s crucial not to disturb them or shine direct light. Prioritizing the protection of these vulnerable creatures is paramount.
Despite these guidelines, witnessing the sea turtle hatchling season remains an indelible experience, forever etched in memory.
For your comfort, it’s advisable to don attire that’s both snug and practical, with a preference for closed-toe shoes.
Infographic of Sea Turtle Hactching around the world
The below infografic covers the journey of sea turtle hatchlings globally.
Learn about the different breeding seasons for sea turtles around the world and the challenges they face during their first steps to the ocean.
Share this educational pin and help raise awareness for the conservation of these majestic creatures.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do hatchlings only emerge during full moons?
You may have heard that sea turtles only emerge during full moons. Well, that is not true. Baby turtles can and do emerge during any phase of the moon. The turtles find their way to the sea by moving towards the brightest direction which is the sea as it reflects light from the skies.
How do hatchlings find their way to the sea?
Once they emerge, they race toward the brightest direction which is the sea. The sea is in the brightest direction as it reflects light from the night sky. For this reason, light pollution from residential buildings can confuse the hatchlings. For this reason, turtle watching, or in this case hatchling watching is done in the dark.
What do I need to know when vacationing at a nesting habitat during the hatching season?
The places mentioned in this article are nesting habitats as sea turtles nest in these locations. When vacationing at a nesting habitat during the hatching/nesting season, you need to follow the rules and laws put in place to protect the turtles. While these laws may seem unimportant, they are.
– You shouldn’t touch or attempt to touch a nesting female, a hatchling, or the eggs.
Be quiet and still.
– Do not shine lights at the nesting females or the hatchlings, you will confuse them. Similarly, do not use flash photography and/or a noisy camera.
– Do not litter or pollute the beaches. This debris has severe detrimental effects on the turtles and the hatchlings.
Is turtle watching during the turtle hatching season expensive?
While prices can be high and quite expensive, turtle watching doesn’t always have to be costly. Instead of visiting an exotic beach far away, you can visit a nesting beach close to you.
Remember, each beach plays an important role in the life cycle of these creatures. From the temperature of the sand determining the sex of the hatchlings (nest temperature is a significant factor) to the challenges they face from predators like sea birds, every step is crucial.
With conservation efforts increasing and more people becoming aware of the importance of these creatures, the return of sea turtles every year to these shores signifies hope.
Let’s play our part, be it through active participation or just by being a responsible beach visitor. Because, at the end of the day, the magic of the sea turtle hatching season is something we’d want future generations to witness too.